“Did you remember the camera?” this the twentieth question to my patient husband as we were driving to our annual camping trip spot.
“Sweetie, relax! This is supposed to be a vacation. I also remembered the first-aid kit, flares in the event of an emergency, and a life boat in case we go on a cruise and the ship sinks,” Larry quipped.
The slightly overcast early-Autumn sky was a perfect backdrop for the magnificent panorama of colorful trees lining the country roads.
“I’m glad we chose a different route this year. Traffic was getting so congested the regular way.”
An hour later, I was jolted awake to Larry’s groan of frustration as our car coasted to the side of the one-lane bumpy road.
“Our transmission just blew, that’s what’s wrong! I KNEW we should have borrowed my brother’s jeep. Of all the stupid luck! And, naturally, there’s no one living for miles around here.”
“Now who’s not relaxed! This is a vacation, lighten up, smell these wildflowers, breath in the pure smog-free air, consider this a spontaneous adventure,” I teased.
But after trekking along for a couple of miles with nary a soul in sight, even my cheery disposition faded.
“Alright, Lord, I’m not really appreciating your sense of humor,” I grumbled, my dusty sandals less than adequate for a long walk.
Larry, trailing behind me, suddenly gasped.
“Janet!” he called as he tripped and lay sprawling, spread-eagled, on the rough terrain.
“Oh, okay, I’ll play along. Did the big man trip with his two left feet? Does he need his little ol’ wifey to help him up? Come on, you big lug—stop playing possum!”
Then I saw the blood. Flowing from a gash on the side of his head where he had crashed against a small rock.
“Oh, Lord, help! I begged, trying in vain to remember the life-saving course techniques from a long-ago class. His breathing was shallow, and that’s when I realized I was helpless to control the situation.
“God, please help us!”
I scrambled to my feet and mounted a grassy knoll that had a well-worn trail on it, manicured yard on either side. There, a few yards below, nestled a quaint little cottage.
“I’ll be back with help, honey,” I shot over my shoulder, racing down the hill. I thought I heard the sounds of children playing in the distance as I mounted the steps to the unlatched, rusty-hinged screen door. I barged right in.
“Anyone here? Help, please! I need help!” my cries echoed through the small dwelling. I frantically flew through the hall to a kitchen. There, conspicuously placed on a doily in the middle of the table, was a bright red, shiny telephone!
“Cook County 911. Please state the nature of your emergency.”
I quickly explained the situation, my words tumbling over each other like an unrestrained avalanche.
“Calm down, ma’am. Now, tell me where your are and I will send the paramedics out.”
I managed to give the operator an accurate description of my surroundings and the road where I had left Larry.
“Sounds like the ol’ Austin place. We have a driver close to that vicinity now. And, what is your name, please? Ma’am?”
But I was already gone, leaving the receiver dangling off the edge of the table, to return to my husband. Ten interminable minutes later, an ambulance, sirens blaring, arrived at the scene. The paramedics treated and stabilized Larry. Apparently, a snake had bitten his ankle, causing the fall, a common enough occurrence in this area that the ambulance was stocked with anti-venom drugs.
“Good thing you had a cell phone with you, Janet,” the hospital staff nurse exclaimed. “That’s rather a deserted area you were in.”
“No, I called from the Austin’s house. Ironically, we actually forgot our cell phone.”
“The Austin place? But that’s been boarded up and deserted for years!”
At my insistence, we returned to the scene of our calamity, retracing my steps down to the cottage. The door was locked up tight, and all windows boarded except for the one to the kitchen. Peering into the room from the porch, we saw a bright red, shiny telephone located on a doily in the center of the table, its receiver dangling from the coiled cord hanging over the edge, with the jack cord conspicuously missing and no telephone poles in sight.
As we drove away, I thought I heard the sounds of children playing off in the distance.
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